As April 1st has passed, we have heard from many constituents, both individuals and small businesses who have struggled to make the rent this month. The NDP has called on the provincial government to provide rent supports and to put a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures as we all work through this pandemic.
“Social distancing” has been renamed “physical distancing”. This is a positive change. To get through the pandemic, we need to maintain physical space between us, but at the same time, we need to maintain our social connections and build new ones. In Spadina-Fort York, 52% of us live alone. We need to reach out to our neighbours and make sure they are ok, both physically and emotionally.
With this in mind, I’m encouraging everyone to make a special effort to be on their balconies and porches this Friday at 7:30 p.m. to show support for the healthcare and essential service workers who are keeping us safe and fed as part of the #TogetherWeCanDoIt campaign launched by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.
To connect socially, in my building, our social committee is organizing a trivia night using Kahoot, a Zoom book club meeting and we are looking for an online Yoga class to join. How are you and your neighbours connecting? Please share your ideas on our Facebook page.
Finally, I wish to thank Spike from “Spike on the Water” who generously donated several boxes of latex gloves that he had in his workshop to the University Health Network. There is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is putting our frontline heroes at risk. If you have any PPE that you can donate, please contact my office.
Rent, Evictions and Mortgages
Although the provincial government has declared that no evictions will be enforced, we are receiving calls in our office from people who are receiving eviction notices. The NDP is asking for a rent freeze (some landlords are increasing rent during the pandemic), a rent-subsidy plan and a federal ban on mortgage foreclosures to ensure no one loses their home during this crisis. Please note that our call to ensure that no one is penalized for late/missed rent or evicted extends to commercial rents. We have created a petition calling for emergency income and a petition to make evictions illegal.
The Solicitor General has enacted a current moratorium on evictions. If you get an eviction notice, do not leave your home. Please get some legal advice to make sure they understand their obligations under the moratorium.
Need legal advice? Pro Bono Ontario is offering support for landlords and tenants at 1-855-255-7256 Monday to Friday, 9:30 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
For those living in Toronto Community Housing, TCHC will work with RGI households to recalculate their rent if their employment income is reduced. Market rent tenants are provided the option to defer a portion of their rent. For more information, including options for paying rent, please see the full TCH update on COVID-19.
New Mandatory Physical Distancing Measures
This morning, the City of Toronto made important announcements about new safety measures effective immediately.
All individuals with COVID-19, who have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, or who are returning from international travel are required to stay home for 14 days.
Anyone over the age of 70 is strongly encouraged to stay home as much as possible.
All other individuals, who are not ill or have not traveled, are strongly directed to stay home, except for the following reasons:
- Accessing healthcare or medications
- Shopping for groceries once per week
- Walking their dogs or getting daily exercise
- While doing any of the above, people must maintain a physical distancing of at least 2 metre at all times .
All businesses remaining open must:
- maximize physical distancing and infection prevention and control practices
- limit in-person access to those businesses, as much as possible
- increase cleaning and active screening of employees at all businesses.
On the weekend, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, issued his starkest warning yet:
“The lives of many Ontarians, especially our community's most vulnerable citizens, are in your hands and will depend on your actions over the coming days and weeks."
Update on School Closures
Yesterday, the provincial government announced that publicly funded schools will remain closed until at least May 4, and that a second phase of supports will be released for students to learn from home. Private schools, licensed child care centres and EarlyON programs will also remain closed until at least April 13. Select centres designated to support frontline health care workers and first responders will remain open.
According to the Education Minister, this second phase will include:
- Reconnecting students with teachers and other school staff, including mental health workers;
- Re-establishing teacher-led learning by grade groupings, for marks, with final report cards still required.
- Prioritizing and supporting students on track to graduate;
- Distributing laptops and/or devices from schools as needed, through school boards.
Many of the details and logistics will be left to the school boards to determine. Please check with your own local board for further details:
English and French-language materials will continue to be added to the Ministry’s Learn at Home site on a regular basis.
Ward 9 TCDSB Trustee Norm Di Pasquale has created Learn at Home Resources which feature FREE curated online learning resources in all school subjects.
If you’re an education worker, please let me know what you think about the proposals and what it means for your work supporting students.
Emergency Child Care
The City of Toronto will be providing emergency child care for children of essential and critical service workers. Registration is now open. There are four locations. Information on eligibility and a link to apply is here.
The service is provided at no costs to families, funded by the Province of Ontario, for children from birth to age 12. Services will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Centres are located across Toronto in existing City-run licensed child care facilities and staffed by City of Toronto child care workers.
Note that the City of Toronto has significantly expanded the list of eligible front line workers from the list previously issued by the province, to include many city service workers such as TTC employees, solid waste, shelter support and housing administration, Toronto Water and long-term care.
Thank You to our Public Colleges and Universities
Ontario’s public colleges and universities are stepping up to help fight the pandemic. Researchers from University of Toronto, McMaster and Sunnybrook Hospital have isolated the COVID-19 virus. Niagara and other colleges are producing plastic face shields to protect our front line healthcare workers.
Laurier University donated 12,000 masks, 38,500 gloves and several hundred gowns to hospitals in Waterloo Region and Brantford. Laurier also created a “community hub” with resources including online athletics programming for kids, Faculty of Music concert streaming and faculty experts who can advise on public concerns.
Our university and college residences are providing emergency shelter to domestic and international students who are not able to return home, and may soon be used as emergency hospices.
OSAP Support Announced (but more aid needed)
The province has announced that the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) will be temporarily deferring loan repayments for six months, interest free, until September 30th, 2020. During this time, interest will not accrue on OSAP loans. This helps graduates, but current students also need supports. The NDP is advocating for increased funding for students whose summer earnings are affected so they can return to school in September.
In addition, the province will be providing $25 million in additional funding to publicly-assisted colleges, universities, and Indigenous Institutes to help address their immediate needs in relation to COVID-19. This includes: deep cleaning, purchasing medical supplies, or offering mental health support.
Preparing to receive Financial Supports
Applications for many of the new federal government financial supports will become available beginning next week. Get ready to apply by:
- Making sure you have a MyAccount with the Canada Revenue Agency, that your address and contact info is up to date, and that you have enrolled in direct deposit: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/e-services/e-services-individuals/account-individuals.html
Get your income tax filed and up to date (including any past years where you did not file taxes) up to 2018. Options to file your taxes online for free are available here.
Demanding Support for Health Care Workers
The NDP is asking for the provincial government to take measures to address many of frontline health care workers’ concerns including:
- Issuing an emergency order to ensure workers have personal protective equipment
- Requiring all organizations to donate personal protective equipment they’re not using
- Hiking Personal Support Worker (PSW) pay and ramping up recruitment efforts to get more staff into seniors care homes.
- Giving health care workers mental health supports
- Scaling up free child care centres for health care workers now
- Cancelling all parking fees at hospitals and other health care facilities (petition here)
- On Monday, Premier Ford announced that the Declaration of Emergency for the Province of Ontario will be extended until April 13, 2020
- On Saturday the government announced that it was cutting the number of people allowed to gather at a time from 50 to five. Up to 10 people will be allowed to gather at funerals, and child-care centres looking after the kids of front-line workers can have up to 50 people on site. There’s also an exception for households with more than five people.
- Yesterday, the City of Toronto announced the cancellation of all city-led events through June 30. This cancellation includes Pride Toronto festival, The Hot Docs Festival, the Inside Out Film Festival, Canadian Music Week and the Toronto Jazz Festival.
- The federal government announced that as of March 30th, anyone in Canada showing symptoms related to COVID-19 will be barred from boarding domestic flights and trains.
- Andrea Horwath wrote a letter to the premier asking him to reconsider what businesses are “essential” – especially in the construction industry.
- Consumers can report price gouging by filing a complaint at 1-800-889-9768 between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday, or by filing a report online.
- 211 is a free helpline that connects Ontarians to community and social services in your area 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in over 150 languages.
- The Ontario Federation of Labour has a worker resource page and an info sheet on how to file a complaint against an employer who is using reprisals
- Click here for the updated Employment Standards legislation changed to reflect COVID-19 and other FAQs on staying home from work. Remember, employers cannot require employees to provide medical notes to prove they are eligible for the leave.
- The Ontario Human Rights’ Commission has released a policy statement on COVID
- Here are guidelines from the Ministry of Labour on how to refuse unsafe work
- Ontario's Non-Profit Network has provided resources for organizations to adapt due to COVID-19
- The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses has a number of resources for small businesses to provide advice in relation to COVID-19
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough or difficulty breathing), please start by visiting the Ministry of Health website and taking their self-assessment, and then if necessary, contact Telehealth Ontario.
This may be a helpful link - Do I have COVID-19, the flu, or a cold?
Telehealth Ontario offers free, confidential service at 1-866-797-0000. A Registered Nurse will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information is available in multiple languages.
Please do not visit a COVID-19 Testing Centre in Toronto unless you have symptoms. Do not call 911 unless it is an emergency.
Toronto Public Health Hotline is available Monday to Friday (8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m) and Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m. – 6 p.m) at 416-338-7600, TTY (416-392-0658) or email ([email protected])
If you’ve travelled, please self-isolate and monitor your health for symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough or difficulty breathing) for 14 days after you arrive back in Canada.
As per the latest recommendations from Ontario Public Health, my staff will be working from home until April 3, 2020.
We are continuing to serve the community and can be reached by phone or email:
Phone: 416-603-9664 Email: [email protected]